Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Andrea P. Capellan, October 8, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Capellan's reflection on her Peace Corps experience

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Um, hi. Hello. My name is Violet Esipila.

Segment Synopsis: Capellan feels that her Peace Corps service was a profound experience during which she underwent tremendous personal growth. Capellan worked as a community economic development volunteer. One of her primary projects was working with a coffee cooperative. When Capellan's cohort landed in the Dominican Republic for about 2 months of training, there was a hurricane going on.

Keywords: Airports; Career paths; Confidence; Hurricanes; Impact; Learning; Pre-service training; San Cristobal (Dominican Republic); Struggles; Vienna (Va.); Weather

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Emotions; Natural disasters; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2000-2010; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Volunteer workers in community development; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Vienna (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9, -77.266667
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
GPS: San Cristobal (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.416667, -70.105556
00:02:47 - Application to the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Okay, um, did you chose, uh, Dominican Republic or, uh, was it open for you?

Segment Synopsis: A year after applying, Capellan was shocked and upset to be offered a program in the Dominican Republic. She had not requested posting to this region. Capellan had wanted a more remote, exotic posting.

Keywords: Application process; Applications; Applying; Expectations; Placement; Posts; Spanish (Language); Waiting periods

Subjects: Dominican Republic; Emotions; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
00:04:20 - Capellan's host family during service

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, did you, um, live with your host family?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan lived with her host family for about 3 months. Then, Capellan rented a shack next to the host family's abode. Capellan's host father was on the board of directors of the coffee cooperative with which Capellan became involved.

Keywords: Host family; Host fathers; Housing

Subjects: Acculturation; Families; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic

00:05:07 - Challenges

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned challenges. What are some of the challenges that, um, you encountered in the Dominican Republic?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan feels that her biggest challenge was to gain the respect of local farmers with whom she worked. Capellan was hindered by being a woman, by being only 21 years old, and by being inexperienced in agriculture. A second problem was because Capellan was an American, the local people had the wrong idea that she had access to a lot of money. Capellan sees the validity of Peace Corps sending older, more experienced volunteers.

Keywords: Advantages; Age ranges; Expectations; Gender discrimination; Impact; Local people; Locals; Male-dominated society; Mid-career; Misconceptions; Older people; Older volunteers; Second Goal

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Misogyny; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Sexism

GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
00:08:04 - Capellan's biggest failure

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Partial Transcript: And what are some of the, um, failures?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan helped to start a computer center as the internet was still new and the area had no connectivity. However, the business closed after 4 months. Capellan was also involved with a youth group. Capellan noted that many local young women become mothers which hinders their pursuit of a separate career. Capellan married one of her host brothers so they return to her husband's village frequently. Capellan says it's difficult to see what impact her service had on the people there.

Keywords: Careers; Children; Computers; Emails; Host brothers; Host families; Impact; Local people; Locals; Marriage; Rural areas; Towns; Villages; Youth development

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:12:05 - Impact of Capellan's service

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Partial Transcript: Um, you know, going back, and you have mentioned that you often go back. Um, what's your perspective from when you were there in 2004 and now?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan was able to obtain several mini-grants. These funds were used to send some of the local youth into the nearby town for lessons about modern technology. Some of these youths have gone on to professional, white collar careers. Through help from Rotary International, Capellan was able to install water filter systems in about 45 houses in her village of 100 families. Only a few of these systems are still functioning and in use today. After her Peace Corps service, Capellan graduated from law school. Capellan's husband also earned a bachelor's degree and now works for the U.S. State Department. So, both Capellan and her spouse serve as positive role models for the youth of the village. However, this also reinforces the image of America as the land of opportunity where money grows on trees.

Keywords: Behavior; Careers; Challenges; Empowerment; First Goal; Funding; Goals; Grants; Impact; Leaving; Misconceptions; Motivation; Rotary International; Stereotypes; Stereotypical Americans; Technology; Villages

Subjects: Education, Higher; Emigration and immigration; Immigrants; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:17:31 - Capellan's initial interest in the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: So, before, um, before joining Peace Corps, how did you find out about Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan attended the University of Virginia. Capellan met with a Peace Corps recruiter who came to the campus. In college, Capellan had studied abroad which was an eye opening experience for her. Capellan had several older friends who had joined the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Friends; Peace Corps recruiters; Recruiters; Recruiting; Recruitment; Study abroad

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Universities and colleges

GPS: University of Virginia
Map Coordinates: 38.035556, -78.503333
00:18:44 - Capellan's opinion of the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel, you know, with, uh, with what's going on now, with evacuation and, and with Peace Corps, do you feel that Peace Corps is still needed?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan believes that the Peace Corps is essential and is an important diplomatic tool. Serving in the Peace Corps gives one a unique perspective. Because of Peace Corps service, many volunteers have changed their career paths. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers want to give back to their communities. Capellan now works in international development and was recently in Peru. Capellan feels that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for Peace Corps as the organization provides a low-cost, effective means of support.

Keywords: Career paths; Evacuations; International development; Perspectives; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Support; Swearing in; Travel; Traveling

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Finance; Food security; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peru

GPS: Peru
Map Coordinates: -10, -76
00:22:10 - Capellan's adjustments in the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: With the, um--you know, I know we--most of us, uh--there's a lot of challenges when it comes to volunteers...

Segment Synopsis: Capellan's difficulty in getting into the Peace Corps provided motivation to her not to quit. Capellan had seen poverty before but never lived in such conditions herself. Initially, having no electricity and no running water was out of Capellan's comfort zone. Before her Peace Corps training, Capellan had no fluency in Spanish. During pre-service training, Capellan stayed with a host family.

Keywords: Anxiety; Assumptions; Comfort zones; Communication; Cultural differences; Difficult; Host families; Language barriers; Motivation; Poverty; Pre-service training; Quitting; Running water; Scared; Spanish (Language)

Subjects: Acculturation; Culture shock; Emotions; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.)

00:26:36 - Peace Corps training

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Partial Transcript: Where did you train?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan's cohort first met in Miami. Capellan has established deep-rooted friendships with several others in her cohort. Capellan talks about learning more about Latina culture from a fellow trainee. Capellan has a high opinion of the Peace Corps staff in the Dominican Republic. Outside of training, Capellan found Santo Domingo chaotic.

Keywords: Appearance; Cohorts; Cultural differences; Friendships; Latinx; Marriage; Miami (Fla.); Peace Corps staff; Pre-service training; Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)

Subjects: Acculturation; Communication and culture; Culture; Intercultural communication; Interpersonal communication and culture; Interpersonal relations; Interpersonal relations and culture; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Social norms

GPS: Miami (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 25.775278, -80.208889
GPS: Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 18.466667, -69.95
GPS: Dominican Republic
Map Coordinates: 19, -70.666667
00:30:08 - Post-service Peace Corps involvement

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Partial Transcript: With, uh, with you being back, have you, uh, involved with the, uh--any involvement with Peace Corps, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan has served in Senegal and Peru with U.S.A.I.D. Capellan has always attempted to attend the swearing in ceremonies of other Volunteers when possible. Capellan welcomed Volunteers to her home in Senegal. Capellan has been on panels with other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to assist Volunteers who were about to complete their service and return to the U.S. Because of COVID-19, Capellan and other State Department personnel were evacuated from Peru along with all the Volunteers in Peru. There were around 100 Volunteers on Capellan's flight out of Peru.

Keywords: Airplanes; Close of Service; Coming home; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Readjustment; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Returning; Swearing in

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Evacuation; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2010-2020; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Peru; Peru; Senegal; United States Agency for International Development

GPS: Senegal
Map Coordinates: 14.4682803, -16.7620746
GPS: Peru
Map Coordinates: -10, -76
00:33:19 - Capellan's evacuation

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Partial Transcript: What was that experience, and, um--you know, being evacuated?

Segment Synopsis: Capellan had about a week to prepare for evacuation. Capellan and the other people being evacuated were taken to the airport on about 15 buses with a police escort. Everyone was masked and sitting on the buses spaced apart. Once back in the U.S., Capellan was impressed by the efforts, including those on social media, to help the evacuated people. Capellan still tries to recruit Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for openings at U.S.A.I.D., as she feels they have many transferable skills.

Keywords: Airports; Arrangements; Buses; Cohorts; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Recruiting; Recruitment; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Skills; Social distancing; Social media

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Evacuation; United States Agency for International Development

00:36:59 - Current conditions with Capellan's in-laws

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Partial Transcript: You know, thinking about the nationals and how, um, how they feel, how you were just evacuated and, uh, just left.

Segment Synopsis: Through her husband, Capellan has some knowledge of current conditions in his home village. People there tend to live day-to-day so quarantines are very difficult. There is no social safety net. Many people were already living marginally before the pandemic.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Difficult; Families; Quarantines; Villages

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Dominican Republic; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Social norms

00:39:47 - Capellan's Peace Corps acceptance

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Partial Transcript: With, um--you--with accepting Peace Corps, and we all know that, you know, the process...

Segment Synopsis: Capellan felt ecstatic because the Peace Corps application process for her was long and arduous. Capellan jokes that the application process is a test to give potential Volunteers a taste of the obstacles to come.

Keywords: Application process; Applications; Applying; Bureaucracy; Paperwork

Subjects: Emotions; Peace Corps (U.S.)

00:42:36 - Peace Corps' impact on Capellan

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Partial Transcript: Um, well is, um--would you like to add anything else?

Segment Synopsis: Peace Corps service was a defining experience in Capellan's life. This is reflected in her marriage and subsequent education and career. Capellan's cohort was racially diverse. Capellan feels it's important for others to see this diversity. As shown by the Black Lives Matter movement, Americans, themselves, need to come to terms with this racial diversity.

Keywords: Assumptions; Black Lives Matter; Career paths; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Diversity; Diversity in the Peace Corps; Marriage; Misconceptions; Second Goal

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Minorities; United States Agency for International Development